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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Potatoes, Pitchforks and Poultry

by Wymondham Learning Centre

Contributed by 
Wymondham Learning Centre
People in story: 
Rita Horn (Née Dibb)
Location of story: 
Allington, South Kyme, and Wellingore, Lincolnshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

Rita on her 21st birthday, wearing a blouse made from parachute silk

This contribution to WW2 People's War website was received by the Action Desk at BBC Radio Norfolk, with the permission and on behalf of Rita Horn, and submitted to the website by the Wymondham Learning Centre.

I was 18 and living in Castleford, West Yorkshire when I enlisted in the Land Army. On the day I left, as I was waiting on the railway station I happened to meet a girl I’d been to school with. She’d also enlisted, and we were together for a while before going our separate ways.

I was at Allington near Grantham in Lincolnshire for a month before being sent to South Kyme. There were about thirty girls billeted in a hostel. We were given bicycles and cycled to the farms to work and back to the hostel at night. We got one night a week off when a van would arrive to take us to Sleaford to the pictures or a dance. We didn’t wear uniform on outings if we could help it, but always wore it when working. We had cut-off trousers in summer.

At South Kyme I did general farming work including haymaking and potato picking.
I didn’t have a farming background. It was hard physical work, me being small, but I got used to it. We used to have a long stick, two of us, to throw sacks of potatoes up onto the trucks. We did the same work as the lads.

I was at South Kyme for about seven months and then moved to Wellingore. I worked on a poultry farm there, and I loved it. It was really, really interesting, and the farmer and his wife were lovely people. I worked on my own. The farm had a big incubator and one of my jobs was helping new chicks out of the shell — hundreds and hundreds of them. Some of the chicks were sold but the farm was mainly used for egg production. There were about fifteen hundred hens at any one time — all free range. One job I didn’t like was killing them. I used to hold them to one side and half behind my back when I wrung their necks so I couldn’t see them. Fortunately it wasn’t often necessary.

On awful job I had was creosoting the sheds. It was a really hot day, which made it worse, and the creosote dripped onto my arms and got onto my face, burnt my skin — horrible!

I got into trouble one day while cleaning the sheds out. I was driving a tractor with a trailer on the back and in manoeuvring them I bashed the trailer against the wall of one of the sheds and broke it open. There were chickens everywhere! The farmer really told me off! But he calmed down next day.

Once again I was billeted in a hostel with other girls, about three miles away. We had a lovely time there, really. We worker hard, but we played hard. We used to go to Cranwell, to dances and so on, and to Lincoln, where I met my first husband, to whom I was married for 43 years. I stayed on in the Land Army after the war, until 1948.

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